Old Testament – Session 2

This session focused on two aspects of looking into the Old Testament. We looked at the Documentary Hypothesis (also known as The Four Source Theory), and then looked at different ways one can analyse The Old Testament.

There is a long-held tradition that the five books of the Pentateuch (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy), were written by Moses, however, it is unlikely he wrote the version we have today. There are inconsistencies and duplications, not to mention the fact that he would have had to written about his death before it happened.  This had led to scholars in the last century to assume that the books are a redaction of several original sources. Modern scholars propose four sources: the Yahwist (J); the Elohist (E); the Deuteronomist (D); the Priestly (P). These are proposed because of their specific literary styles and theological concerns. Each source reflects a certain historical situation and community.

The Yahwist 

  • Origin in southern kingdom (Judah), maybe as early as King Soloman or King David
  • Earliest source dating back to the 10th Century BC
  • Theology focused on God’s promises for salvation & importance of cultic worship
  • God referred to as Yahweh (LORD [small caps] in English)
  • Holy mountain is called Sinai
  • God is anthropomorphised – He walks in the garden and talks with Adam
  • E.gs – Story of Adam and Eve, the account of The 10 Plagues

The Elohist 

  • Origin in northern kingdom (Israel) around 9th Century BC
  • More of a focus on morality and Israel’s proper response to God: faith and fear of the Lord
  • Emphasises prophesy
  • God referred to as Elohim (Lord God in English translation)
  • Holy mountain is called Horeb
  • God speaks in dreams
  • E.gs – sacrifice of Isaac, the Ten Commandments

The Deuteronomist

  • Clearest independent source (author responsible for most/all of Deuteronomy)
  • Most likely written in 7th and 6th Century BC
  • Teaches that all the bad things that happened to the Israelites were God’s punishment
  • Deuteronomy is retelling of Exodus-Numbers (Deuteronomy = ‘second law’)
  • Interprets Israel’s history as a cycle of God’s forgiveness and renewal of covenant
  • Horeb is the holy mountain
  • Emphasises law and morals

The Priestly

  • Developed during and after the exile >> 6th Century BC
  • Theology focused on the Jewish people’s religious identity found in proper worship and special laws that set them apart
  • Rejects idea of religious identity being found in a divinely appointed king
  • Emphasis on Temple cult and worship, the southern kingdom of Judah and the role of Levites
  • Talks about genealogy which established different groups in Israelite society
  • E.gs – first creation story, book of Leviticus

After looking at the Four Source Theory, we moved on to look at Biblical literary criticism. This is a careful study of the bible, and can be done from different viewpoints. There are some main viewpoints within this critical biblical evaluation, and this video is an excellent source to help understand the ways in which we can look into Biblical texts:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FTss7CEUeGI

I feel that this session will be very useful to look back on, particularly when writing my assignment, as I will be able to analyse whichever Bible story I choose using some of these techniques, hopefully improving the quality of my essay.



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